Dr. Sandra Cohen, a Beverly Hills psychoanalyst, writes about your favorite film, TV, and book characters
and their real human problems.

  THE WOLF OF WALL STREET — Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf Of Wall Street is an indulgently voyeuristic picture of MORE, MORE, MORE, at every level. Money, sex, drugs – there’s no stopping the film’s main characters, Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his cohorts, from their purely hedonistic pursuits. And, yet, that’s still not enough. Is Martin Scorsese secretly enthralled and glorifying debauchery, as some critics and viewers suggest? Or, is his three-hour film really meant to take us inside the depraved minds of men who are completely out for themselves and have absolutely no capacity for human concern? What pushes someone, like Belfort, over...

DALLAS BUYERS CLUB — There are two radical choices when faced with a death sentence: jolt into a potent sobriety and fight to live. Or, sink into despair so deep that drugs are a greater solace than fighting the monster killing you. Ron Woodroof, played brilliantly by Matthew McConaughey (Golden Globe Best Actor), chooses the former. But Rayon, a transgender woman, played with magnificent pathos by Jared Leto (Golden Globe Best Supporting Actor) can’t stop her harmful behaviors. What are the driving forces (emotional ones, that is) behind an out of character transformation versus self-destruction? Ron Woodroof, whose real life story Dallas Buyers Club tells,...

AMERICAN HUSTLE — David O. Russell’s American Hustle is a cinematic treatise on the complexities of survival. Irving Rosenfeld, Sydney Prosser (AKA Lady Edith Greensley), Richie DiMaso, and Rosalyn Rosenfeld are each, in their own uniquely perverse and destructive ways, just trying to survive. But, are they? If we remove ourselves from the intrigue of the hustle itself (based upon the FBI Abscam operation of 1980), what exactly can we learn about this particular brand of self-serving (or should I say, rather desperate) psychological survival? Each member of this troubled cast of characters is trying to “survive” the limits of their real identities. As Irving...

AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY — A mother’s hate inflicts the worst kind of suffering. There’s not one child among the main characters in August: Osage County who escapes. Not Violet, not Mattie Faye, not Barbara, Karen, Ivey, or even little Charles. Most of the film’s immediate suffering is at the hands of Violet Westin, the cruel matriarch of the Westin family. There’s certainly no excuse for a mother’s cruelty. Yet, can it be understood?  Even more importantly, how does a daughter save herself? Can a relationship with a mother like Violet ever change? In some rather twisted irony (at least to me as a psychoanalyst), August:...